How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook

I am typing this on a 9-inch, 3G-equipped, almost-pocketable computer, running the best consumer OS money can currently buy. It costs around $400. Do you want one too? Here's how to get yours.

There are a lot of netbooks on which you can install and run OS X, but if you're mindful of the handy comparison chart those lads at Boing Boing Gadgets have compiled, you'll know that the Mini 9 is about as ideal a platform as you'll find for a Hackintosh ultraportable: Everything from wi-fi, sound and the function keys down to the optional integrated mobile broadband card and the SD card reader are supported and work as they should. No hardware compromises at all. It's awesome.

Generally, there are two ways to approach a Hackintosh install: Using a "slipstreamed" OS X installer image that's been modified to install on non-Apple hardware, or using a $129 factory-fresh retail OS X install disk in tandem with a special bootloader that does the necessary tweaking to let the install happen. The former can be easy enough, but it's pretty much illegal since it contains a pirated OS X install disk, and on top of that you'll run into all kinds of problems should you ever want to upgrade your OS or software via Software Update.

By using a retail OS X disk, you stay mostly out of pirate waters, and ensure that once everything's up and running, you'll be as close as is possible to having an actual Mac. Here we're doing that, using a method referred to as the "Type11" install, cooked up by a fellow of the same handle and his colleagues over on the MyDellMini forums, a fantastic resource.

Even though we're using a standard retail-purchased copy of OS X, the disclaimer: Apple does not like Hackintoshing. It violates the OS X EULA, and probably won't make the Dell folks too happy either, should you need to return your hacked Mini 9 for service. So, as always, proceed at your own risk.

On a personal note let me tell you, it's worth it. The Mini 9 is a beautiful OS X machine. So let's get started.

What You'll Need

Dell Mini 9 With 16GB SSD or higher (8GB SSDs will techincally work, but it will take some fiddling not covered by this guide)

• Retail copy of OS X 10.5.x (NOT an OEM copy that comes with a new Mac)

• A USB flash drive 8GB or higher

• An external USB DVD drive

• The "Type11" Bootloader: DellMiniBoot123v8.01.iso.zip (download link in this forum post)

• Blank CD to burn bootloader image (I actually used version 8.0 of Type11 on my CD-if your boot process with 8.01 is different than what's spelled out in this guide, you can download 8.0 here. Both should work.)

• Windows PC for preparing the flash drive (if DVD drive works fine, this is optional)

How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook



Preparing Your Boot Loader

The easiest way to use both the Type11 bootloader (burned to a bootable CD) and your OS X install DVD is via the external USB DVD drive. The catch is, some drives are mysteriously not compatible with installing OS X on the Mini 9. Mine was one of those drives—the bootloader CD would work without a hitch, but it would choke on the OS X install disk every time. Thankfully, it's also possible to run both the bootloader and the OS X install disk off of a USB flash drive. I'm going to spell out my method here, which actually included both approaches, but try an external DVD drive first, and if yours is compatible, your life will be a little easier than mine was. On the other hand, if you don't have an external drive, you can give the USB flash drive method a shot.

The general approach here it to boot from the Type11 bootloader, which allows you install, run and update OS X; once you're up to 10.5.6, you can install a suite of Mini 9 specific drivers so you don't have to rely on the bootloader anymore.

1. Unzip the DellMiniBoot123v8.01.iso and burn it to a CD with Disk Utility or a similar Windows tool (don't just drag the ISO file to a disk). Pop that disk into your external DVD drive, connect it to your Mini 9 and power it on, then press 0 (zero) at startup to bring up the list of bootable devices.

2. Choose CD/DVD from the list, which will bring you into the bootloader. Choose the first option, "Install Retail OS X 10.5" which will bring you to a command prompt that says "boot:"

How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook

3. Take out the bootloader disk and pop in your retail OS X install DVD, keeping the PC running. (You can power your external drive off and then on again to make sure everything's kosher.) Press Escape at the boot: prompt to bring up the drive options. The Type11 installer uses hex codes to choose which device you're booting from, which you can assign at any time from the boot prompt by pressing escape: enter "9f" for the external DVD drive or "80" for the primary internal SSD. Here we're booting from the external CD drive, so press escape, Type "9f" then press enter.

4. At this point, the OS X installer will either load or it won't. If it does, great. You can skip to step 12. If not, you'll need to do what I did, and transfer everything to a USB flash drive to install that way.

How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook



Preparing a USB Stick Instead Of/In Addition To a Boot CD

This is based on a tutorial found on the MyDellMini forums by "bmaltais"—bigup to him.

5. Open up Disk Utility and partition your USB drive (8GB or larger) into two partitions: one 200MB FAT32 (MS-DOS) partition named "TYPE11" and one with the remainder of the free space formated as Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) called OSXDVD.

6. Move to a Windows PC (I know, I know), plug in your USB stick and download Syslinux-this is a utility that will make the FAT32 partition of your USB stick bootable. With the Windows Command Prompt, cd over to the "win32" subdirectory of the Syslinux directory you downloaded and type the following, where "F:" is the drive letter for the TYPE11 partition on your USB stick:

syslinux -ma F:

You won't get any confirmation, but if you receive no error messages, you're good: This copies a single file named ldlinux.sys (invisible in Windows) to the USB drive to make it bootable. Pop it out and go back to your Mac if that's what you're using.

7. Now, unzip the Type11 ISO (instead of burning it to a disk) and copy the whole directory structure to the TYPE11 partition. Do NOT overwrite the "ldlinux.sys" when it asks—you want to keep the one you copied over with Syslinux.

8. To fill up the other partition, insert your OS X install DVD and, in Disk Utility, select it and choose "New Image." Save it to the OSXDVD partition of your USB drive as "live.dmg" with "compressed" as the type and encryption set to "none." This'll take about a half hour to rip the DVD to an image, which should weigh in at around 6.4 GB give or take.

9. After that's done, go to Terminal and copy your mach kernel file to the OSXDVD partition by typing this:

sudo cp /mach_kernel /Volumes/OSXDVD

10. And finally, download this zip file, uncompress it and copy the System and Library folders inside to your OSXDVD partition. This is the last bit of magic needed to make your Mini 9 think it's working with an actual OS X install DVD.

11. On your Mini 9, restart it and enter the BIOS setup by pressing "2"—and make sure legacy support for USB devices is enabled. Now, reboot and select the boot options list by tapping 0 at startup and choose USB Storage. Select the OSXDVD partition to boot from and press Enter. This should load up the familiar Apple and the OS X installer window.

How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook



Install OS X

While you're installing and doing initial configuration of OS X, everything will be all warped to 800x600 rather than your Mini's native 1024x600 res. Don't worry, this will be fixed soon enough.

12. The first thing you need to do is format your SSD. Bring up Disk Utility in the installer select it at the highest level possible. Go to "Partition" and make it a single Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) partition. Before hitting Apply, go to Options and select GUID Partition Table. Then hit apply.

13. Now, go back to the Installer, and install OS X to the SSD you just partitioned. You will definitely want to choose to customize your install to save SSD space—I would ditch all the printer drivers and language packs you don't need to save space. If you install with the default options though, don't worry—all can be removed later. The install will take about an hour, so go fix yourself a drink. You may come back to an Install Error message at the very end (I didn't), but if you do, don't worry. It's normal.

14. Once OS X is installed, it's still not ready for use right off the drive. On your first reboot, make sure you boot back into the Type11 bootloader on your CD or flash drive, as your new OS X partition is still not bootable without it.

This is, however, where a bit of weirdness set in for me. The Type11 partition on my USB disk would NOT recognize my fresh OS X install on the Mini 9 SSD. It just would not boot it. The Type11 boot CD I had made (with version 8.0 of Type11) DID recognize it, however, and booted it just fine. So bear that in mind here—even if you weren't using an external drive before, you still might need one.

How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook



15. So now you boot back into the Type11 CD and choose option 1 ("Install Retail OS X 10.5") again, even though you're not installing. This takes you back to the boot prompt. This time, hit Escape, and type the code "80" for your SSD (as opposed to "9f" for the external DVD). Press enter, and then back at the "boot:" prompt, type "-f" with no quotes before hitting enter again to boot. This will load all of OS X's kernel extensions (.kexts) to make sure wi-fi and everything works. OS X should boot, and you'll go through the typical OS X setup process. Notice the webcam and—hopefully—networking are already working!

ONE MORE NOTE: If networking isn't working, don't panic. On my first boot from the SSD, wi-fi didn't work. But after a restart and another boot from the bootloader CD (with the "-f" option) it worked fine. Throughout this process, if anything is screwy, before you panic and start Googling new strategems, simply re-do the last step that failed—it's often that easy.

Free Up Space and Update OS X to 10.5.6

Now that you've booted from the fresh install on the SSD, it's time to update to 10.5.6 (if necessary). After a default install, I only had a gig and change left on my 16GB SSD, so I had to dump some programs I wouldn't need as well as all the printer drivers found at /Library/Printers. There is an app called Monolingual which can also help clear some space by removing unwanted language files and stripping out all legacy PPC code from your universal binaries.

16. Once you've cleared up enough space (if necessary, you'll need around 6GB), go to Software Update and install the 10.5.6 update. This will take a long-ass time too (the SSD, strangely enough, seems to actually be slower on tasks that take tons of reads and writes).

17. After it's done, restart, and boot into the Type11 bootloader one last time. This time you don't have to use the "-f" flag. Once you're booted, go to the DellMini9Utils folder on your Type11 CD or flash drive and run the DellEFI installer. This will load all of the Mini 9 .kexts and drivers as well as a special bootloader to boot your SSD install. Choose the easy install option and just let it do its magic.

18. After it's done, you'll be asked to reboot one final time. You won't need to boot from the Type11 CD this time; you should boot straight off of your SSD like normal, and enter upon your fresh new OS X desktop, now in gloriously correct 1024x600 resolution. Awesome!

How To: Hackintosh a Dell Mini 9 Into the Ultimate OS X Netbook



Configs, Tweaks and Fun Stuff

You'll notice right away that OS X runs fantastically on the Mini 9. I was really stunned, and you probably will be too. Here are some things to make it even better:

• Follow this tutorial to get your mobile broadband working if your Mini 9 has it. Network preferences should recognize it out of the box.

• If you're especially OCD, you can run the "AboutThisMac.pkg" inside the Type11 utilities folder to change "Unknown Processor" in the About This Mac window to the correct 1.6GHz Atom designation.

This is a neat trick for fooling pesky oversized windows into shrinking themselves for your small screen.

• I haven't had luck with this, but you can apparently enable some multitouch scrolling action on the Dell's Synaptics touchpad by following these instructions.

Conclusion

So congrats, now you have a 100% functional OS X netbook. I've been using mine for a few days now, and it's quite the machine for basic netbook activities-surfing, IM, email. It connects to my shared AirPort disk and streams my video collection (even high-def files) perfectly, and also backs up wirelessly over Time Machine. The 9-inch screen will make even your lower-res full-screen video look fantastic—YouTube or Hulu, QuickTime trailers and video rips are a pleasure to watch. Watching an episode of something in bed without lugging my 15-incher in with me is really nice.

In addition, I think I may have found the perfect toilet computer. No one wants to fight Windows on the throne. And of course it's amazing for traveling. I'm about to take a trip to Cairo, and I'll be bringing this little guy without a doubt.

Resources

Many thanks to everyone at the following sites:

DellMyMini Forums: Mac OS X

DellMyMini Forums: OS X: FAQs and How Tos

OSX86 Wiki Guide

So that's about it! Please add in your experiences in the comments-your feedback is a huge benefit to our Saturday guides. Good luck with your own Hackintoshing, and have a great weekend!